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Book of the Month: Schola Caritatis: Learning the Rhythms of God's Amazing Love

  Starting a new feature for the next several months called Book of the Month.  I will present one of my books and tell you a little of the ...

Sunday, December 31, 2023

embracing the new

“I am the Lord; that is my name!  I will not give my glory to another, or my praise to idols.  See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.” (Isaiah 42:8-9)

We can’t embrace the new, without letting go of the old.  Will we?

Lord Jesus, give us the courage and the strength and the grace to let go of the old, so that we might be able to embrace the new.

Saturday, December 30, 2023

god alone

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.” (Psalm 62:5-6)

Until my sense of well-being depends on God alone, I will always be at the mercy of mood, whim, and circumstance.  He alone is my rock and fortress.  He alone will allow my soul to find rest and peace.  He alone is my hope.  If my hope is in anyone or anything else, I am in for a rocky ride. 

What is your sense of well-being dependent upon these days?   What would it look like to put your trust in God alone?

“Trust in him, O people, pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” (Psalm 62:8)

Friday, December 22, 2023

an advent journey

                                                       The Game

Years ago, some friends and I had committed to work a weekend at a Young Life camp in western North Carolina.  The weekend, however, also was the time when Tennessee was supposed to play Miami in the 1986 Sugar Bowl.  Miami was ranked second in the nation and was a significant favorite to win, but we still wanted to watch the game, nonetheless, holding out hope that Tennessee might be able to pull off the upset. 

Being the year 1986, coupled with the fact that there was no television reception at the camp, our only option was to ask a friend in Asheville to tape the game for us and drive the tape up to camp after it was over, which he gladly agreed to do. 

After our responsibilities for the evening were finished, we headed up to the room and eagerly awaited the arrival of the tape.  At about 1:00 AM our friend finally showed up and handed us the tape only saying the words, “Don’t stop watching.”  He knew we did not want to know who won the game before we watched it, but also didn’t want us to get so discouraged at some point that we might fail to watch all the way to the end.

The game started out just like everyone predicted.  Miami took the opening kickoff and drove straight down the field in dominant fashion, scoring on a touchdown pass from Vinny Testaverde to Michael Irvin.  It looked like we were in for a long night, but we held out hope due to the words of our friend who had seen how the game ended. 

Needless to say, we watched the game to the very end and were delighted as Tennessee dominated the rest of the game in route to a 35-7 victory.  But I always wondered whether we would have kept watching if our friend hadn’t given us that glimmer of hope.
That’s what the season of Advent is all about: A loving and powerful God, who knew how the story ended, telling his people to watch and wait in hope and not lose heart, regardless of how bad things might look at the moment.  Jesus was coming. 

                                                          The Season

It has been a long, hard, heavy Advent season for me this year; a season that has left my soul and my spirit with a definite limp.  I cannot remember a time when I have been so aware of my flaws and my failures, my frailty and my feebleness, my inadequacy and my brokenness, my vulnerability and my sin.  It has not been fun, but it has been transforming.  God’s Spirit has been incredibly active and wonderfully present within me: speaking and showing, revealing and stirring, growing and forming, molding and changing me more into the man he dreamt me to be.  And while it hasn’t been easy or pleasant, it has been beautiful.  God did what God does—he showed up in the midst of my mess.  The highlight of which was a dream I had a couple of weeks ago. 

                                                            The Dream

I was in a home.  A warm and comfortable home that was very familiar to me, but not my own.  In this home lived a family: a father, a son, and a daughter.  They were very familiar to me as well, and I felt welcomed there, peaceful and safe and loved.  As I walked around in the house, I noticed a stairwell leading up to the door of an attic room.  I wondered what was up there but passed by and continued to walk around.  Eventually, I passed the stairwell again and stopped to gaze up at the door at the top of the stairs.  A desire arose deep within me to know what was behind that door, almost like it was offering me some kind of secret invitation.  So, I decided to venture up the steps and see what was there.  As I ascended the staircase, I noticed the daughter behind me, at the bottom of the stairs, smiling.  I turned and asked her what was behind the door and if it was her room, but she just kept smiling.

I opened the door and stepped into the most beautiful room I had ever seen.  There was a fire in the fireplace, a beautiful sitting area, and even a prayer space with candles, kneelers, and a wooden cross at the center.  The walls were lined with bookcases full of books that were just begging to be read.  The room was so bright and so spacious, with big windows and a high ceiling, so that light came streaming in from every direction.  And as I walked around and took in the beauty, I said to myself, “This is the most perfect room I’ve ever seen.”

That’s when I noticed the family standing in the doorway.  They were all beaming with joy.  That’s when I realized that they had built this room for me and were just waiting for me to notice the stairwell and the door, so that I would be curious enough to climb the stairs and see what they had made for me.

As I woke, all the sadness and heaviness were gone.  Instead, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of peace and joy and contentment. 

                                                            The Passage

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:1-3)

Immediately after I woke up from the dream, this passage came to mind and has been my constant companion in the days and weeks since.  Jesus did not want me to continue to live with a troubled heart, but with a trusting heart.  He wanted me to know that even though things were hard and heavy and sad right now, he was right in the middle of it doing something good and beautiful.  I just needed to learn to trust him.

Trouble has an interesting quality about it.  If we dwell on it, it will consume us.  But trust has the same quality.  It all depends on what we focus on.  If we focus on our troubles, then that’s all we can think about.  Things become dark and hopeless and bleak.  But if we focus on the God who is loving and powerful and trustworthy, he will be the one that consumes our minds and hearts instead.  It all comes down to what we will allow to consume us—our troubles or our God.  We can either be filled with guilt and shame, or with circumstances and worries, or hurt and pain, or doubt and despair, or we can be consumed with the life and love of God.  Jesus wants so much more for us than a troubled heart.

                                                            The Proposal

In John 14, Jesus knew what the disciples were facing in the days ahead and wanted to offer them (and us) words of life and hope: “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

Believe it or not, these were the very words uttered at a Jewish marriage proposal in the days of Jesus.  Marriages were arranged in those days, but the future bride and groom did have a choice.  If the groom-to-be wanted to marry his intended bride, he would come to her and offer her a cup of wine.  It was his way of saying, “I choose you.”  And if the bride-to-be accepted the proposal, she drank the wine, thereby saying, “And I choose you.” 

Then the future groom would go back to his father’s house and start building a room onto that house for he and his future bride to live.  Once the work was done, the father of the groom would give his approval and then the groom would head back to his betrothed’s house and bring her back to his father’s house to start the wedding feast. 

The disciples would have fully understood the intimacy and the passion and the hope and the surety of all that Jesus was communicating.  They would have recognized those very words as his proposal to them.  And that one day he would, indeed, return and take them back to a wedding feast.  Jesus wanted to leave no doubt in their minds about the depth and breadth and passion of his love, or that one day he would return to take them to be with him forever.

That’s what Advent is all about: a hopeful, eager anticipation, even in the face of trials and troubles.  An admonition to not let the troubles of this world, or of our own hearts, consume us, but to wait in expectation for our groom to come for us, his bride, and take us back to the place he has prepared for us, so that we might be with him in ecstatic, joyful, loving union forever and ever.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

how can i be sure of this

“How can I be sure of this?” (Luke 1:18) 

It’s a simple enough question, I suppose.  And not terribly out of line, at least on the surface, given the circumstances. Except when you consider that the being standing before Zechariah was actually and angel, who had just told him that “your prayer has been heard.”  It certainly echoes the sentiments of a man who would come before Jesus years later: “Lord, I believe.  Help me overcome my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)

What caused Zechariah to doubt?  Was it that the miracle seemed too hard to perform, given his age, or that he didn’t really believe God loved him enough to perform it?  In other words, did Zechariah have a hard time believing that God could answer his prayer, or that God would answer his prayer?

Julian of Norwich once wrote: “For some of us believe that God is all power and able to do all, and that he is all wisdom and knows how to do all.  But that he is all love and will do all, there we stop.  This ignorance is that which most hinders God’s lovers.”

So, what is it for you?  What makes it hard to believe that God wants to answer your prayers?  What makes it hard for you to believe that he wants to turn your mess into a miracle?  Do you believe he can?  Do you believe he will?  Just pay careful attention, because sometimes the miracle he is performing is not the exact one we are asking him for.  Sometimes he is doing a bigger, deeper work.

Forgive us, O Lord, when we doubt the goodness of your heart and the power of your love.  Give us confidence that you do, indeed, hear our prayers and are committed to giving us the deepest desires of our hearts—yourself.

Monday, December 18, 2023


“And she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.  She wrapped him in cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them at the inn.” (Luke 2:7)

Talk about humble beginnings!  The Creator of the universe, God in the flesh, came into the world as a newborn baby, was wrapped in cloths, and was laid in a manger.  All because there was no room for him in the inn!  Are you kidding me?  How much lower can you get?  And yet, this is how God chose to enter his creation. 

It certainly tells us something about the character of our God.  And it certainly sets an example for those of us who follow.  The very birth of Jesus invites us to the low places.  It invites us to enter the world with a hush rather than a flash.  It invites us to make our home among the low rather than the high. 

The temptation to try and make a place for ourselves in this world is so strong, and yet Jesus did the very opposite.  And he invites us to join him.  Which means that whenever we find that there is no room for us, we are most likely following in his footsteps.  Rejoice and be glad!  

Lord Jesus, the way you chose to enter this world tells us so much about who you are, and about who you aren’t.  Help us to have the courage and the strength and the grace to see your example and to follow it. 

Saturday, December 9, 2023

my newest book

In case you are looking for a good companion for the journey from Epiphany to Lent, this might be for you.  It's the second book in the Order My Steps series.  Available now on Amazon

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

stay in the struggle

But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me." (Genesis 32:26)

You’ve got to admire Jacob’s tenacity.  While most of us would probably have been saying, “Let me go, this is exhausting, painful, and incredibly uncomfortable,” Jacob was saying, “I will not let you go until you bless me."  The truth is that most of us probably do not stay in the struggle long enough to get the blessing.  We tap out.  But Jacob was determined.  He knew this wrestling would eventually bring a blessing, so he stayed in it.  And although he left with a limp, he also left with a new name.  From that moment on, Jacob’s life would be forever changed.

Where and how are you wrestling with God these days?  What is that struggle accomplishing in you?  Will you stay in the struggle long enough to receive the blessing it holds?

“Enable me to stay in the struggle until the blessing arrives.  I will allow myself to be vulnerable.  That very vulnerability is my limp, but it is also my blessing.  O Transforming One, you have wounded me, yet you have not disappointed me.  I am grateful for the blessing of all my new names.  Thank you for your presence in the beautiful struggle of daily life.” (Abide by Macrina Wiederkehr)

Monday, November 20, 2023

the depths of woe

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!  O Lord, hear my voice!  Let your ears be attentive to my pleas for mercy! (Psalm 130:1-2)

In the Scriptures, I normally think of an invitation into the depths of God as a positive and inviting thing, but what about when he invites us—or ushers us—into the depths of woe?  What about when God leads us—or takes us—to a place of coming face to face with our own sinfulness, brokenness, and desperation?  What about when he invites us not just to take a look at his beauty, but to take a good long look at our own inner ugliness?  That’s a whole different story.  I guess that’s why most of us refuse to go there on our own, we have to be taken there.

Well, God has taken me there recently, and I have to say it is not a place I enjoy being.  To be taken to the depths of woe is to be taken to the depths of your own neediness, brokenness, and insecurity, which is painful, humiliating, and incredibly dark.  It involves wave after wave of sorrow, sadness, and shame, with absolutely nothing you can do about it except sit in it, cry out for mercy, and wait for God to show up.

But you know what I've found at the bottom of these depths of woe?  I've found Jesus.  I guess that’s why the words of the ancient prayer (Psalm 139:8) remind us that even if we "make our bed in the depths," he is still there.  God was right there with me in my descent into my inner darkness.  His goodness, his unfailing love, and his full redemption (Psalm 130:7-8) even reached to the bottom of the depths of my woe, and beyond.  In fact, it is impossible to know the true depths of the unfailing love of God apart from a journey into the depths of woe.  For these depths are meant not only to mark us deeply, but also to change us completely.  Jesus meets us there and makes us more into the people, and the lovers, he dreamt us to be.

So if you are currently in the depths, like me, don’t fight it but embrace it.  God is bigger than your sorrow and your sadness and your pain.  God is even bigger than your sin.  Trust him; he is doing a great work in you.  He wants to show you the depths of your sin, so that he can help you to better understand the enormity and extravagance of his unfailing love, as well as the beauty and power of his full redemption. 

“From the depths of woe I raise to Thee the voice of lamentation.  Lord, turn a gracious ear to me and hear my supplication.  If Thou iniquities dost mark, our secret sins and misdeeds dark, O who shall stand before Thee?

To wash away the crimson stain, grace, grace alone, availeth.  Our works, alas! are all in vain; in much the best life faileth.  No man can glory in thy sight, all must alike confess thy might, and live alone by mercy.” ~Martin Luther

Monday, October 30, 2023

advent is coming

 Advent is coming up.  It starts on Sunday, December 3.  If you are looking for a helpful companion/devotion for yourself, your staff, your small group, your volunteers, or your church, here are two options. 

Order My Steps: A Daily Journey Through Advent and Christmas

Watch and Wait: A Guide for Advent and Christmas

Saturday, October 21, 2023


“My heart is not proud, O Lord, my eyes are not haughty.  I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.  But I have stilled and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.  O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, both now and forevermore.” (Psalm 131:1-3)

prayer involves
the movement from
trying to be something
to realizing we are nothing
so that God can be everything

Monday, September 18, 2023

through the sea

Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though you footprints were not seen.” (Psalm 77:19) 

A very wise man once said that there are actually two exodus stories in the book of Exodus.  The first is God getting Israel out of slavery and the second is God getting slavery out of Israel.  The first happened one day, as God led his people out of Egypt and through the Red Sea.  The second took forty years of wandering in the wilderness.  It seems that the comfortable and familiar, no matter how hard and dysfunctional, don’t loosen their grip on us easily.  The problem is that following Jesus almost never involves what is easy, comfortable, or familiar.

I’m coming to realize more and more that God’s way always leads through the sea—and then through the wilderness—not around it.  It is only by going through the sea, and then the wilderness, that God gets slavery out of us.  It is a long and arduous journey.  The life of slavery runs deep.  Its roots have dug way down into us and it will take some time and effort to pull them out.

“Freedom cannot abide in a heart dominated by desire, in a slave’s heart,” wrote John of the Cross.  “It abides in a liberated heart, in a child’s heart.”  Going through, not around, is how God brings that liberation about.  “There is no way out, only through,” wrote Gerald May.  And he was so right.  There is something about going through, instead of around, that is transforming.      

But the bottom line is that until we love our liberation more than we love our captivity, we will always be slaves.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

rule #1

My heart is not lifted up, O Lord, my eyes are not raised too high.  I do not occupy myself with great matters, or thing too wonderful for me.  But I have stilled and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.  O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, both now and forevermore. (Psalm 131:1-3)

Be still.  Be quiet.  Drop your list. Abandon your agenda.  Stop your anxious spinning.  Listen to God.  Let him guide you.  Wean yourself off of the need to be everything to everyone.  Still and quiet your soul and just see what happens.  This is the first lesson in the school of prayer.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

functional atheism

Functional atheism.  What an interesting phrase.  It is the belief that ultimate responsibility for everything rests with me. Thus, it is not so much atheism in theological terms, but atheism in practical, functional terms.  Which makes it very subtle and hard to spot.  In fact, most functional atheists would probably not consider themselves atheists at all, they just live like they are.  The telltale signs of functional atheism are self-sufficiency, productivity, and performance—three things that are highly valued by the culture around us.  But three things that can also leave us spiritually dead and impoverished. 

Just look at the letter Jesus wrote to the church at Laodicea, for example. (Rev. 3:14-22) These were folks who professed that they both knew Jesus and sought to follow him, and yet the way they lived their lives said something much different.  In fact, Jesus described their love for him as tepid and lukewarm, which made him want to vomit.  There was no passion or zeal for God, only a falsely satisfied sense of self-sufficiency: “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.”  So much so that they had left him out of their daily lives.  Jesus was on the outside looking in; knocking continually on the door of their hearts, longing for deep, vibrant, intimate relationship with them, and yet they left him outside.  Thus, the “believers” at the church of Laodicea were functional atheists.  They said they loved God, but they lived like he didn’t exist.

The admonition Jesus gave them was to stop relying on themselves and their own resources to manage life, to realize their poverty and their helplessness, and to turn to him to give them what they could not possibly provide for themselves: to be rich in spiritual treasure, to be clothed in his holiness and righteousness, and to be healed and made whole.  Only Jesus could give them those things, if only they would be willing to open the door.  The very life of their souls depended on it.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

the essence of prayer

”One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him is his temple.” (Psalm 27:4)

That’s it.  That’s what prayer is all about.  In fact, that’s what life with God is, ultimately, all about.  In the midst of the chaos and commotion and turmoil of this life, a single-minded focus on God, and simply being with him, is of utmost importance.  It is so easy to get swept away with worry and care about the many things that we get distracted and forget about the one thing—Jesus. 

Henri Nouwen said it this way: “Prayer is entering into the presence of God here and now.  Prayer is the way I which we become present to the moment and listen to God who is with us.  God is always where we are.  God is with us until the end of time.  We have to be here.  We have to listen.  We have to be attentive.  Prayer is the discipline of attentiveness, of being here.
      I really want to ask you to practice prayer as a practice of the presence of God.  You don’t have to say many words.  You don’t have to have deep thoughts.  You don’t have to worry about how to think.  You can just be where you are and say, ‘I love you.  I love you.  I know you love me and I love you.  I don’t have any big things to say.  I don’t have any profound words to express, but I am here and I want you to be with me and I want to be with you.’  It’s that simple.  It is a very simple thing.  Prayer is not complicated.  It is not difficult.”

The true essence of prayer is simply being with God—dwelling, gazing, and seeking.  I don’t know why we make it so complicated.

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

awakened by love

“The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have aid is quite true.” (John 4:18)

Contrary to popular opinion, Jesus is not trying to shame, but to awaken.  Awakening, however, is not a tidy process.  In fact, it can be pretty messy.  For in order to truly awaken someone, they must first be made aware of how they have been lulled to sleep.  Their needy patterns and strategies must be exposed, recognized, and acknowledged before true awakening can take place.

But who in their right mind wants to be exposed?  Only someone who realizes deep inside that their lives have taken a terribly wrong turn.  Only someone who yearns and longs and hopes for a life that’s better than the one they are living.  Only someone who is longing to experience a love that is deeper and wider and longer and higher than any love they have yet to experience. 

That’s where we have to trust the heart of Jesus, that his intent is love and never shame.  That he alone can love us with the depth and the passion and the intimacy we most deeply long for.  That when he exposes us it is with the utmost gentleness and kindness and compassion, for it is his invitation to name what is wrong within us and return to what is good and true. 

The heart of Jesus is to expose and awaken, to name and invite.  Because, ultimately, he doesn’t want us to settle for less than the life and the love he created us for.  He doesn’t want us to live at the mercy of others.  He doesn’t want us to be dependent on the attention and affection of those around us, when it is only he who can give us the attention and affection we most deeply need.  Helping us to realize that, and helping us to stop being the attention and affection whores that we are, is what spiritual awakening is really all about.  It certainly was for the woman at the well. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

he still will

 "The cause why we are so troubled with these sins is because of our ignorance of love.  To this knowledge we are most blind, for some of us believe that God is all power and able to do all and that He is all wisdom and knows how to do all.  But that He is all love and will do all, there we stop.  This ignorance is that which most hinders God's lovers.  There persists a fear that hinders us because of paying attention to ourselves and the sins we have done in the past.  We do not know how to despise the sin of self-hatred, as we do other sins which we recognize." ~Julian of Norwich

This quote is still stirring in my heart and has been for the past month or so.  I guess that's because, if I'm really honest, I'm one of those she is talking about.  I believe that God is able to do all things, but do I really believe that he will?  It reminds me of the leper who came to Jesus in Luke 5:12-13: "If you are willing, you can make me clean."  I feel that way a lot.  I know God can, but will he?

God answers that question for the leper, and all the rest of us doubters, when he says, "I am willing.  Be clean!"  God is always willing.  Maybe not always willing to give us exactly what we want, but always willing to touch us in the way we most deeply need to be touched.  He loves us too much not to.

I'm not sure what life is like for you and yours these days (In fact, I would love to hear about it).  I'm not sure what you are carrying around within you.  I'm not sure what kind of burdens are weighing you down.  I'm not sure what prayers you have been praying, knowing that God can, but not really believing that he will.  But I want to encourage you to know that HE WILL.  Even today, HE WILL touch you in the way you most deeply need to be touched.  

Hear his words over you today: "I am willing.  Be clean!"

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

he will

“The cause why we are so troubled with these sins is because of our ignorance of love.  To this knowledge we are most blind, for some of us believe that God is all powerful and able to do all, and that He is all wisdom and knows how to do all.  But that He is all love and will do all, there we stop.  This ignorance is that which most hinders God’s lovers.  There persists a fear that hinders us because of paying attention to ourselves and the sins we have done in the past.  We do not know how to despise the sin of self-hatred, as we do other sins which we recognize.” ~Julian of Norwich

Sunday, July 9, 2023

the revelation of hiddenness

“This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee.  He thus revealed his glory. . ..” (John 2:11)  

It should come as no surprise to us that the first miracle of Jesus was performed at the wedding of a friend and very few people even knew about it.  I mean, who does that?  Jesus, that’s who.

What are we to do with a God who reveals his glory in hiddenness and anonymity, except to seek to become more like him?

Friday, June 30, 2023

crossing over

the leap from fear to gratitude
changes everything about you
instead of doubt and demand
or anger and frustration
you are filled with joy
and thanksgiving
you see everything differently
suddenly all of life is a gift
to be received rather than
a possession to be defended

Sunday, June 25, 2023

the great reversal

In a world that says increase
Jesus says decrease
In a world that says first
Jesus says last
In a world that says up
Jesus says down
In a world that says rule
Jesus says serve
In a world that says fill
Jesus says empty
In a world that says earn
Jesus says grace
In a world that says ascend
Jesus says descend

Who will we listen to?

Friday, June 9, 2023

deep healing

Jesus always sees beyond the presenting problem to the core.  He doesn’t just want to touch the surface, but the deeper places.  Touching those deep places within us is the only way we can experience real healing and wholeness.

Thus, Jesus knew that the problem with the paralytic (Mark 2:1-12) wasn’t merely his legs, it was so much more than that.  The real problem was his heart, so healing just his legs would stop far short of the healing that was most desperately needed.  If Jesus healed the paralyzed man's legs, without healing his heart, the man would still not be whole.

Maybe you have prayed for years for God’s intervention in some area of your life, and yet, for the most part, those prayers have seemingly gone unanswered.  That area of your life remains unchanged.  Here’s a thought: maybe it’s because you are praying for the wrong thing.  Maybe you too, are praying for your legs, when there is a much deeper issue that must be addressed.  God wants to get his hands on that place.  He wants to heal you at your deepest levels, but in order to do that he needs you to recognize exactly what the problem is.  Are you willing to go there with him?

Heal us, O God, in a deep and beautiful way.  For it is healing that we need and only you can offer it.  Heal our hearts, heal our lives, and heal our world.  Our wounds are the source of most of our conflicts and issues and dysfunctions, so touch us with your healing hands of love and make us alive and whole and free.  Amen.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

were and will be

“As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’  At once they left their nets and followed him.”

They were fishermen, but they will be fishers of men.  God was calling them to leave behind what they were, in order to become who they really are.  It was a pretty abrupt departure from the life they had known and grown comfortable with.  Now they were being asked to move from proficiency to mystery.  They would have to leave behind a life and an identity they had grown accustomed to and familiar with, in order to step out into the great unknown.

But isn’t that always what life with Jesus is like?  Leaving behind the comfortable and familiar, in order to embrace a life of risky dependence.  Trading autonomy for obedience and control for surrender.  Saying goodbye to comfort and proficiency, since they cause us to stop short of the life God is beckoning toward, and saying an unreserved yes to Jesus, regardless of what that might mean. 

We might be tempted to try to convince ourselves that this calling was only for them, but it’s not.  It is for us as well.  These brave souls were willing to leave everything behind—their boats, their nets, and even their own father—in order to follow the call of Jesus.  Are we?

Friday, May 12, 2023

pure in heart

“Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.” (Mt. 5:8)

Of all the beatitudes, this one seems the most inaccessible.  I mean, I know my own heart and how impure it really is.  Thus, purity of heart is only possible if God provides it; we can’t do it ourselves.  We are totally dependent on him.

A careful study of the word, however, might give us a hint as to how this takes place.  It’s what the saints called purgation.  The word pure, in the Greek, is katharos, which is an adjective meaning clean.  It is the word also used in John 15:3 to describe the results of pruning (kathairō), the verb associated with katharos.  Kathairō literally means to purge.  It is the process by which we are emptied, in order to be filled.  Thus, if we ever want to be filled with God’s purity, we must first allow the Spirit of God to purge us of our impurities.  In the words of a wise saint, “How can God possibly fill you if you are already full of yourself?  It’s like trying to pour into an already full cup.  You must first empty the cup.” 

So, instead of just trying to add purity to our hearts and lives, which is impossible for us to achieve on our own anyway, we should probably start (through the power of the Spirit) by emptying ourselves of all that is not God.  Then, and only then, can he fill us with himself, and his purity.  Then we will, indeed, be blessed.

In the words of Susan Annette Muto, “When we live the Beatitudes in and with the Lord, we become liberated persons in the fullest sense.  We follow the path of purgation until, with Jesus, we are filled with the peace of surrender to the Father and led by his Spirit to new depths of intimacy with the Indwelling Trinity.”


Closing Prayer: Purge me, Lord Jesus, of all that is not you, so that you can fill me with your life, your love, and your purity.

Thursday, May 11, 2023


“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (Mt. 5:7)

So, if the merciful are blessed, how in the world do we become merciful?  It seems to me that it’s impossible to be merciful without first realizing how desperately we need mercy ourselves.  If we don’t think we need mercy, we probably aren’t going to be able to extend mercy.  But if we realize the depths of our own need, and are extended mercy ourselves, it makes it much more likely we will respond in kind.  I mean, how could one who has been granted mercy, withhold that mercy from others, right?  Receiving mercy changes us into merciful people.  So the way to become merciful is to bask in the mercy of God.

But we can only do that, it seems, by coming face to face with our own neediness and desperation.  As much as we would like for it not to, desperation plays a definite role in the equation.  Desperation leads to dependence, dependence leads to humility, and humility, in turn, leads to mercy.  Thus, increasing our desperation, increases our capacity to be merciful.  Once we have received mercy ourselves, it does something deep inside—it makes us merciful people. And blessed.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

hungry and thirsty for righteousness

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Mt. 5:6)

What does it mean to hunger and thirst for righteousness?  The word for righteousness, in the Greek, is dikaiosynē.  It means the state of him who is as he ought to be.  Thus, to hunger and thirst for righteousness means to yearn for and long for and work for all things, people, and relationships to be as God intended them to be. 

Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are agents of life and hope and change in this world.  They are the ones who are called and empowered to bring the hope and the healing and the wholeness of God into this dark and broken world.  They are the ones who are constantly working to help roll back the effects of the fall, by giving people a taste of the kingdom of God in the here and now.  They are ones who are called to live and to love as God intended.

Tuesday, May 9, 2023


“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (Mt. 5:5:5)

Meek is not a word that’s used much these days.  And if it is, it is almost never used in a positive way.  Culturally speaking, being meek is seen as being a pushover, being weak, being spineless.  Which, in all honesty, is the exact opposite of what meekness is really all about. 

Meekness is about being humbly submissive, which is probably part of the problem.  Nobody wants to be submissive to anyone these days, particularly to God.  As a wise saint once said: “Meekness toward God is a disposition of spirit in which we accept his dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting.”  Thus, being submissive takes strength and courage and patience and wisdom and fortitude.  You have to have tons of backbone to be submissive; it is not easy.

Jesus knew that.  That’s why he said that the meek are blessed, because the meek are wise enough and strong enough and courageous enough to submit their plans and their agendas and their wills to the will of God—the one who made them.  The meek recognize the created order and the magnificence of the One who created them.  Their lives are about glorifying God, not about glorifying, or gratifying, themselves.

When we submit to God, we submit to the Spirit, instead of trying to be the Spirit.  We stop managing and controlling and hijacking and manufacturing and steering and directing, and we start listening and waiting and watching and praying and paying attention.  We stop trying to constantly grab the wheel and simply trust God instead.  We let God lead.  For the price of submitting is indeed high, but the price of non-submitting is higher still—our soul.

Sunday, May 7, 2023

blessed are

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 5:3) 

The eyes of Jesus see what we cannot.  They see beneath the surface of things, to the very depths.  They see past the temporal, to the eternal.  They see the value in things and situations that we do not typically see as desirable.  That’s because Jesus is more concerned with our character than he is with our circumstances.

That’s why he can say that the poor in spirit are “blessed.”  In fact, theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  The poor in spirit are the last, the lowest, and the least.  They are the small, the hidden, and the quiet. The poor in spirit are the ones who are most open to God, because they need him so desperately.  It is the lowly and the meek and the humble and the needy and the inadequate whose hearts are most receptive to God, not the proud and the arrogant and the powerful and the self-sufficient.  It is in weakness that God’s strength comes shining through.  Poverty of spirit is the very best soil in which to grow the most beautiful things of God.

At times we are tempted to ask, “Where is God in the midst of loneliness and brokenness and marginalization?  Where is God in struggle and turmoil and weakness?  Where is God in disruption and disorientation and disturbance?”  But I think the better question is: “Where is God in success and attention and popularity?  Where is God in pride and adequacy and competence?  Which environment grows the better fruit of the Spirit within us?  Which makes us more loving and grateful and compassionate?  Which makes us more open and excited and receptive to receiving the kingdom of heaven?"

So, contrary to popular opinion, maybe the poor in spirit really are blessed after all.

Friday, May 5, 2023

reverent submission

“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” (Hebrews 5:7)

Reverent submission involves seeing God for who he truly is and seeing ourselves for who we truly are.  It involves a deep recognition of his great power and our inherent powerlessness, of his immeasurable strength and immeasurable our weakness, of his supreme adequacy and our feeble inadequacy.  It is, in fact, an acknowledgement of our desperate dependence on him.

Reverent submission brings about a willingness to surrender our plans and our will and our way, in deference to his.  It makes us open to whatever God is doing, rather than us trying to determine what God is doing: no manufacturing, no steering, no managing, no hijacking, no controlling. 

Reverent submission is about obedience instead of autonomy.  It calls us to wait and to listen and to pray.  It asks us to watch and to wait and to pay attention.  It asks us to respond to God’s initiative, rather than always taking our own.

Help us, Lord Jesus, to be more and more like you.  Help us to always act in reverent submission, rather than in prideful arrogance.

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

change me

O Lord, how I long to be different.  How I long to turn from my twisted and dysfunctional patterns and habits, in order to be more whole and holy.  I long to be set free from my own self-consumed ways of being and seeing, and to become more and more like you.  I long to be more loving instead of self-centered, I long to be more compassionate rather than competitive, and I long to care more about your will and your work than I do about my own.  

Continue, O God, to transform my heart.  Grow your grace in me and let it flow freely and effortlessly from my heart and life.  Change me from deep within. Give me more peace and less frustration.  Make me more rooted and less reactive.  Help me to be more caring and less annoyed.  

O Jesus, fill me so full of your love that there will be no room in me for anything else.